So, there’s an episode on Grey’s Anatomy titled Give Peace A Chance, where a lab technician named Isaac (Faran Tahir) approached Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), a world-renowned neurosurgeon, with scans of an inoperable spinal tumor. Dr. Maranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) referred to the tumor as “the great white of all tumors.” Not knowing that the tumor belonged to Isaac, Derek, just after one glance, was inspired. He wanted to operate. Now, if you’ve seen this episode, feel free to jump to the paragraph which states: Start Here. If you haven’t, keep reading or logon to Netflix to watch season six, episode seven.
Back to the episode! Now, of course, there were multiple exchanges between Isaac and Derek, but in the end, Derek agreed to operate. Prior to attempting to remove the tumor, Derek understood that he had two options. The first was after opening the patient up he would cut the patient’s spinal chord in efforts to completely remove the tumor without killing him. But, this option would essentially leave Isaac paralyzed from the neck down. The second option was to find a way to completely remove the tumor without cutting the spinal chord. This option came with greater challenges because the tumor found a way to extensively wrap itself around the Isaac’s spinal chord, invading blood supply, and disrupting veins and nerve roots. The tumor was smart, complex, and in a scientific sort of way, gorgeous. Knowing Derek’s initial response, Isaac encouraged Derek to consider the latter.
On the day of the surgery, Derek opened Isaac up, exposing the tumor. Derek found that there was no clear way to begin. He stood in the operating room for ten hours, looking at the tumor without ever making a cut. Out of fear of subjecting the patient to infection, Derek decided to close and retire Isaac to the recovery wing of the hospital. Derek explained to Isaac that there was no way to remove the tumor without cutting the chord or killing him, Isaac smiled with promise in his eyes and asked Derek to sleep on it. To understand Isaac’s persistence towards the latter choice and his unwillingness to give up, one must understand his past. Isaac lost everything, his entire family to terrorism in his country; his wife, children, home, and other relatives. It’s safe to say that Isaac had nothing to lose. Sure, Derek went home, but he didn’t sleep. He burned the midnight oil with his wife (also a surgeon, Meredith Grey, Ellen Pompeo) to find a solution. What he realized was that no matter where he started, there was risk. He also realized that the scans Isaac provided only gave him a glance of what the tumor actually looked like. He simply had to open Isaac up, pick a place to start, and cut. There could be no plan because with a plan, doubt and uncertainty would ensue. Now, for the sake of time (yours and mine), Derek completely removed the tumor without paralyzing or killing Isaac.